By Elton Gomes
Delhi’s air quality continued to remain on the brink of turning “severe”. The Centre on Thursday noted that steps taken by various states to control stubble burning were “far from satisfactory.”
The Centre’s comments came after the environment ministers of Punjab and Haryana skipped a crucial meet to deliberate over the deteriorating air quality in the national capital.
A ban on construction activities was imposed on Thursday as Delhi’s air quality was on the brink of turning “severe” due to unfavourable meteorological conditions and stubble burning in the surrounding regions.
The meeting called by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan to discuss the plan for the next 10 days, when the pollution level is expected to rise, witnessed the participation of Delhi’s Environment Minister Imran Hussain along with officials from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana.
Delhi’s air quality has severely dipped in the past two weeks and is currently fluctuating between “very poor” and “severe” categories. As the national capital struggles with deteriorating air quality, a number of measures have been undertaken.
Delhi introduces air filtering buses
Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday flagged off five buses fitted with air-filters, which trap the pollutants in the air.
Designed by Faridabad-based Manav Rachna Innovation and Incubation Centre (MRIIC), the pilot project intends to introduce 30 more such buses in Delhi. The buses are meant to carry school children.
The buses will reportedly help by cleaning atmospheric air through filters fitted on their roof. The filters do not require any power to function and are equivalent to filtration provided by six room air-filters, developers from MRIIC said.
“As the vehicle moves, air passes through the holes in front of the device. During experiments, we found the filters can trap up to 98 percent of the particulate matter,” Professor B.S. Gill, leader of the research team, said, IANS reported.
Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan to launch clean air campaign
Poor air quality in the national capital has pushed the Centre to launch an aggressive Clean Air Campaign to combat the increasing air pollution levels.
The 10-day campaign was launched by the Union minister for environment, forest, and climate change, Harsh Vardhan on Thursday. The much-needed campaign comes at a time when the air quality in Delhi was on the brink of being included in the “severe” category.
“The next 10 days are crucial for Delhi, as air quality could worsen in wake of the approaching festive season. So, we have decided to launch a 10-day aggressive Clean Air Campaign in Delhi-NCR to step up preventive action. In case of repeat violations, criminal proceedings against defaulters will also be initiated,” Vardhan said, soon after chairing a meeting with representatives of the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, Live Mint reported.
DMRC to include 21 new Metro services
Taking into consideration the worsening air quality across Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has introduced 21 additional services on the Metro line.
These additional metro train services have already begun, and will be providing a total of 812 additional trips.
The additional services include 14 metro trains with 730 trips on the newly introduced Shiv Vihar-Trilokpuri-Sanjay Lake section of the Pink Line. With these additional metro train services, for the first time in the history of DMRC, the Delhi Metro will see a total of 4831 trips in a day, the highest ever so far.
GRAP initiated in October
Delhi decided to implement the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in October 2017. As per the plan, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was to monitor air quality from various stations located across Delhi-NCR.
Daily reports were to be sent to the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), the implementing authority. The EPCA would then decide on the future course of action.
If data of any station displayed a spike in pollution levels, a team would rush to the spot and analyse the reason. Thereafter, appropriate action would be taken and instructions would be issued.
44 joint teams to check air pollution
About 44 joint teams from various agencies were deployed on Thursday to check air pollution in the national capital, the Delhi government said. The teams have been permitted to take strict punitive action against violators responsible for sources of air pollution.
Delhi Environment minister Imran Hussain announced that the joint teams comprising of SDMs/Tehsildars, officers of Municipal Corporations, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC)/Environment Department and of Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF&CC) and CPCB will be deputed to stop the spread of pollution from local sources.
Hussain said that this campaign was jointly organised by the Delhi government and the Central government. The teams have been mandated to take action on the following actions, namely garbage burning, stubble burning, and vehicular emission.
What can be done to curb pollution
The pollution control authority has urged people to reduce the use of private vehicles and opt for public transport instead. While vehicles contribute to 40 percent of the pollution in Delhi, the EPCA highlights on not using private vehicles at all as they are worst contributors to pollution.
Furthermore, every day in New Delhi, an estimated number of 1,400 new cars hit the roads. Rapid motorisation without stringent environmental measures has made the damage in Delhi irreversible. Currently, only 38 towns and cities have Bharat Stage IV fuel vehicles on their roads, while the rest of India relies on Bharat Stage III standard fuel and vehicles, which remain highly harmful to the air.
The national capital surely needs some effective policies to reduce toxic pollution levels. However, it depends on the how the measures are implemented at the ground level and how they are utilised by the people.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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